Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 28
Noting that certain contents aired by TV news channels have an “instigating effect”, the Supreme Court on Thursday said the Government wasn’t doing anything to check such reporting.
“The fact of the matter is that there are programmes which have an instigating effect and you being the government is doing nothing about it… There are programmes which instigate or impact a community. But as a government, you do nothing,” a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
“Fair and truthful reporting is normally not a problem. Problem is when it is used to agitate others. It is as important as providing ‘lathis’ to policemen. It is an important preventive part of the law and order situation,” it said while hearing PILs filed by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and Peace Party seeking directions to the Centre to stop dissemination of “fake news”.
The petitioners have demanded strict action against TV channels for allegedly spreading communal hatred against Muslim by stating that Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi in March last year was responsible for spread of COVID19.
Mehta pointed out that pre-censorship was not permissible. Self-regulatory bodies such as News Broadcasters Association and News Broadcasters Standards Authority (NBSA) had their own mechanism, he added.
The top court – which had in November last year said that a statutory regime to regulate TV channels in India was needed as self-regulation by TV channels wasn’t good enough—asked the parties to file their affidavits in three weeks.
During the hearing, the CCJI said, “Yesterday, you shut down the internet and mobile because of the farmers’ visit to Delhi…You have shut down internet mobile…These are problems that can arise anywhere. I don’t know what happened on the TV yesterday.”
“People can say anything. We are on broadcast which can instigate and cause riots. There is loss of life. People say anything these days. There are situations which can destroy property, life,” the Bench said.
“Control over some news is as important as some preventive measures that can check law and order situations. I don’t know why you are blind to this. I don’t mean anything offensive but you are doing nothing about it,” the CJI said.
Wondering why a private body like NBSA should look into complaints against the media, the top court had earlier asked the Centre to create a mechanism to address grievances against fake news circulated by TV channels and media.